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Defense Ministry to abolish gender restrictions in almost all SDF units

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada (Mainichi)

The Defense Ministry is set to lift restrictions on the placement of female personnel within the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) starting this month, opening the way for women to be involved in almost all SDF units, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada announced on April 18.

    The move comes as part of efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration to promote women's empowerment and gender equality, and is aimed at doubling the ratio of female personnel within the SDF from a mere 6.1 percent as of the end of 2016.

    Since 1993, the Defense Ministry has promoted the lifting of gender-based placement restrictions in stages, abolishing all such bans within the Air Self-Defense Force by 2015, including those for fighter jet pilots. For the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF), the ministry eliminated gender restrictions for all units in 2016, except for submarines.

    The latest rule change opens up posts in the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF)'s infantry company, tank company and reconnaissance unit available for women.

    In the meantime, female personnel will still be kept away from part of the GSDF's nuclear biological chemical weapons defense unit that deals with radiation, the force's tunnel company that could be exposed to dust during tunnel drilling, and the MSDF submarine unit where privacy protection is difficult.

    There were 13,989 female SDF members as of the end of 2016. By lifting gender restrictions, the Defense Ministry aims to increase the number of female members and improve the working environment for women.

    "We will aim to make the SDF an appealing force that meets the needs of the times and environment," Inada told a press conference on the morning of April 18.

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